The Knoxville Jazz Orchestra's 17-piece big band—a medley of brass, bass, piano, and drums—aims to spread jazz like an infectious case of the cooties. Dozens of local concerts and festivals throughout the US and Europe have benefited from their playing, and four CDs have made it so fans can bring the magic home. To add zest to their stew of performances and bring new voices to the area, the ensemble also hosts regular guest artists, including world-renowned soloists. And the group further instills appreciation with a "Jazz in Schools" initiative and a free, annual "Jazz on the Square" concert that lets audiences take in the music in the open air.
Dance Tonight co-owner Jeremy Norris knows his students. "When it comes down to it, everyone really dances for one reason: to have fun," he states on his school?s website. Co-owner Emily Loyless and their staff of fellow NDCA-registered instructors share his sentiment. In addition to teaching salsa, west coast swing, and country dancing, their dance studio turns into a ballroom dance party on Friday nights where students practice moves from their lessons. Norris and company also schedule Zumba dance fitness classes, whose calorie burn far exceeds that of completing 100 Macarenas.
The Knoxville Opera sings most of its notes in a venue befitting the regality of its material: the Tennessee Theatre. The former movie-house and decades-old stage swathes performers in Spanish-Moorish design, a strikingly blue domed ceiling, burgundy velvet seats, and gold accents. But the opera singers don't keep their voices contained there. Education and outreach programs send them throughout the community, performing at schools, shaking the downtown streets during themed festivals, and aiding local construction companies by shattering old glass buildings.
The Bijou’s origins stretch back through American history, but it didn’t become a theater until relatively recently: 1908. For nearly a century prior to its dramaturgical reinvention, the building was a high-class hotel that housed high-ranking military commanders, influential civic leaders, and even President Andrew Jackson for a spell in 1819. When General Ambrose Burnside took the town of Knoxville during the Civil War, the hotel was converted into a hospital, makeshift war room, and oil-wrestling arena for Generals William Sherman and Phil Sheridan. The latter portion of the 19th century showed the building more favor, and during the lavish 1870s another president—Rutherford B. Hayes—paid call, and delivered a speech from the hotel’s balcony.
The early 1900s saw the hotel’s biggest renovation to date when it was purchased and upgraded by the Auditorium Company. The newly rechristened Bijou Theatre opened to a sellout crowd, and was a major outlet for vaudeville from 1913 to 1926. Hard times began to pile up soon afterward, and the lapsed theater would have been demolished in 1975 were it not for its eleventh-hour listing on the National Historic Record. Since its most recent renovation in 2006, the stage has hosted pop stars and musical blockbusters.
Not content to only screen their bone-chilling flicks on Halloween weekend, Knoxville Horror Film Fest rolls out a variety of horror features and shorts throughout September and October to ready moviegoers for the spooky holiday. The festival proudly celebrates the bad as well as the good. Besides doling out bloodcurdling awards such as Best Gore Effects and Best Curdled Blood, the judges name one lucky piece of celluloid Weirdest Film, a distinction won by the oddly titled Thank You Jesus! in 2011. Throughout the year, filmmakers can submit their work in hopes that it will be shown in the company of high-profile releases such as the plasma-splattered AnnaLynne McCord vehicle Excision and the long-awaited adaptation of David Wong’s John Dies at the End, both of which are being shown at the 2012 KHFF.
As part of the National Premier Soccer League, both teams of the Knoxville Force showcase top amateur players from high school, college, and around the world as they prepare for professional careers. Since its founding in 2011, the Force organization has thrilled local soccer fans with teams built around some of the region's best athletes as well as imports from other national and international teams. Both the men's and women's teams scurry across the pitch at University of Tennessee's Regal Soccer Stadium, and each holds tryouts prior to each season to make sure top recruits aren't actually kids stacked on each other's shoulders, as those cleats would probably dig in pretty hard.